Title: Above All
Author: Jane Elliot
Cover Artist: Chris Downie
Publisher: Manifold Press
Amazon Buy Link: n/a
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel (272 pages / 65,000 words)
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by jeayci
Review Summary: Riveting story with one abrasive character and one badly damaged one, who manage to build a believable and satisfying relationship.
Blurb: When volatile genius Dr Jasper Swinton accidentally hits a homeless man with his car one night in a seedy part of town, he finds himself taking responsibility for the man’s recovery in a very personal way. Before long, Brian has become such an integral part of his life that Jasper doesn’t know how he’ll ever begin to manage without him – until the day comes when he has to …
Review: I stupidly started this right before bed, thinking I’d read a few chapters and then sleep. Hah! I ended up staying up much too late to finish it. I also laughed a lot and was glad no one was trying to sleep next to me.
I really enjoyed the characters and the slow build of their relationship. I also really enjoyed some of the secondary characters. Jasper was abrasive, obnoxious, and lovable. He did some pretty stupid things at times, but that fit perfectly with his genius character. Geniuses, in my experience, are often incredibly stupid about some of the most surprising things. I found his difficulty understanding or relating to people believable and endearing. He didn’t seem capable of dissembling, except perhaps a little to further one of his various revenge plots.
I enjoyed his revenge plots to an extent, but after a while they began to seem a bit much. Perhaps that was intentional, to show us that Jasper didn’t understand when it was appropriate to stop, but I think I already understood that and yet the revenge bit kept going and going and going. There was some great humor around it, but again there were times when it felt like too much. I wanted to say, “I get it already, can we get on with the story!”
Brian was a great foil for Jasper, and tried to keep his revenge tendencies at least moderately under control. Brian was a great character, so strong and capable and so damaged by what life had dished out. I ached for him while respecting the hell out of his inner strength. I thought it was wonderful that though Jasper helped Brian to heal, there was additional healing Brian needed to – and did – on his own.
Well, not exactly on his own, as he did it with the help of various friends and professionals, some of whom provided great additional depth and context. There was no Magic Penis in this book, neither to heal Brian nor to turn either guy magically gay, and I appreciated that greatly. What I didn’t appreciate quite as much were the machinations involved in getting Brian that help. Or, I guess it would be more accurate to say I didn’t appreciate how (or why) it was all kept secret from Jasper.
I loved the pace at which their relationship developed and how they explored together how to be with another man for basically the first time. Neither was gay for the other, as it was made clear they’d each been attracted to – or tried NOT to be attracted to – men before. But what they felt for each other was compelling enough to be worth exploring and pursuing, even if that meant facing some internal taboos. Their awkward first kiss and fumbling (and sometimes painful) sex was wonderfully and unusually realistic for a romance novel. Here’s a great quote that gives you a lot of insight into the story and characters:
“I told you earlier that we’ll figure this out, and we will, but it would be counterproductive to attempt advanced techniques before we’ve mastered the basics. Stop trying to rush this, Brian. There’s a difference between efficiency and recklessness.”
This time the pause was shorter and when Brian spoke, he sounded amused. “I can’t believe you just used the word ‘efficiency’ while discussing sex.”
“The scientific method is an all-purpose tool,” Jasper said haughtily. “Just because the populace is too ignorant to take advantage of it doesn’t make it any less useful.”
Despite the slow, realistic development through most of the story, the end felt a bit rushed. While it made sense to me that once things started coming together for Brian they’d all happen pretty quickly, it felt like it was a bit too crammed in at the end. For all that I wished the revenge plots had been a bit less drawn out, I wished Brian’s resolutions had been a little more so. I think it would be difficult to enjoy this story if you don’t like Jasper, but if you do it’s a riveting, humorous, enjoyable book.